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''Deadwood'': Hearst takes a hit

On ”Deadwood,” Hearst survives a pistol attack by the bare-bosomed Trixie after the mining baron murders Ellsworth, setting up the series’ final battle

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Gerald McRaney, Deadwood

”Deadwood”: Hearst takes a hit

Not with a bang. Not with a whimper. But with a sigh. Yes, that’s how dear, sweet, doting (but dumb) Ellsworth went out. After a season of simmering aggression, the war finally kicked off, with the first casualty being a citizen of Deadwood whom we really cared about. To paraphrase Oklahoma: Poor Ellsworth is dead.

The death should sadden us because (a) Jim Beaver was rock solid in providing quiet emotional heft in the grand tradition of the strong silent type and (b) Beaver’s last monologue was to a dog. A dog! No big cast party and no final kiss and no last-minute heroics. Ellsworth saw his killer and then sighed in acceptance, knowing death was moments away. I hope somebody bought Beaver an ”I was on Deadwood for three seasons and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” T-shirt. Or at least a Fudgie the Whale cake.

No matter. The bottom line remains that Hearst’s hired gun killed Ellsworth with a single shot to the head, and now the end is near. The question that remains: Is it the end of Deadwood or the end of Hearst?

Now, if Trixie had had her way in this episode, the season would have been over. She marched over to Hearst’s hotel room and fired a derringer into his torso, but apparently walking through the town showing her wares threw off her aim, since Hearst was only wounded in the shoulder. Hearst is pissed, and Trixie fears for her life, and the town is in mass turmoil, and yet some of our last precious moments of screen time are being wasted with lame plotlines about the stupid Langrishe drama troupe. I’m letting it go (breathe, Paul, breathe), but HBO owes me a new remote control since mine was, um, mysteriously hurled across the room when the new Langrishe hire introduced herself to the other members of the company. Why are they developing new minor characters with only one episode (which is pretty much the series finale) left?

Even with bits of fluff floating around, this penultimate episode was filled with action, but more important, it had fangasm moments that matched up characters who rarely if ever have interacted this year. Doc and Hearst. Dan and Charlie Utter. E.B. and Langrishe. Jewel and Richardson. Bullock and Mrs. Ellsworth. Quick highlights: Hearst knowing Doc knows he’s lying about being innocent in the killing of Ellsworth. Dan joking with Charlie over a shot of booze. Langrishe dropping the name of fellow actor John Wilkes Booth to E.B. Jewel forgetting her own full name. And Bullock reuniting with and giving comfort to his former love. But the best cameo goes to Wu, not only for readying a group of men to defeat Hearst next week but also for muttering to himself when leaving a successful meeting with Swearengen, ”Wu. Big Man.” Wu, baby. You are the biggest.

Now for the finale: Can the League of Extraordinary Men of Deadwood band together in time to defeat Hearst and keep him from forcing Mrs. Ellsworth to sell her claim? Or is the main goal to stop Hearst from burning the town to the ground? And if those goals turn out to be at odds, are we going to see civil war?

I ask you: Will the season wrap up in a tidy bow? Will the show deviate from history and kill off Bullock? And how long do have to wait for the Deadwood movie?